Tullamore, Co. Offaly native Aisling Molloy has come a long way from buying her first calf at the tender age of ten.
Hailing from a strong Agricultural background, the fifth-generation farming enthusiast boasts an admirable educational portfolio.
She is a holder of an Animal Science degree from UCD, a Masters in Agricultural Innovation Support and has also recently completed a thesis on how Teagasc advisory services can improve engagement with and empowerment of farm women.
Most recently, since January 2017, Ms. Molloy has secured a position as a Drystock Advisor with Teagasc in Co. Wexford.
A passion for Agricultural Science
Her passion for the Agricultural Science discipline was inspired by studying Agricultural Science at second-level.
‘Classes had to be taken outside of school hours. I spent four years at UCD and during that time, I carried out five months of Professional Work Experience on a range of farming enterprises.’ Aisling told That’s Farming.
Aisling’s love for Science and Agriculture found commonality in her career as a Drystock Advisor.
Travelling around from farm-to-farm, in order to bring her knowledge to the table and to provide assistance to farmers, all comes as part of her many responsibilities.
‘I am always trying to help farmers improve their businesses, but it’s the best feeling in the world when they come back and say, ‘thanks, that actually worked well!’ and to know that you made some little difference.’ Aisling explained.
However, before filling these shoes, Ms. Molloy decided further her studies and investigated how Teagasc advisory services can improve engagement with and empowerment of farm women
Drawing attention to the fact that in recent years the lack of recognition for women’s contribution to Irish agriculture is becoming more of a focus, Aisling decided to keep ahead of the curve.
‘With an estimated 74,000 women working on Irish farms (27% of the agricultural workforce) but only 4,800 are named clients with the public farm advisory service (Teagasc), I wanted to base my study around this.’ Aisling said.
To get the ball rolling, Ms. Molloy focused on women working and/or living on farms in Co. Wexford in order to establish a profile.
‘I wanted to identify their knowledge and learning needs to empower their roles on family farms, to investigate what barriers would prevent them from engaging with advisory services and to propose a strategy to help engage them more with agricultural advisory services.’ Aisling revealed.
Aisling ticked all of the boxes in terms of the set study aims and the results which followed have been of interest to thousands.
The study found there are 2,679 farm women in Co. Wexford, of an average age between 41-55 years.
Marriage is the most common entry route into farming, the study found.
29% are working full-time on a farm, 45% are working part-time and 25% reported that they ‘were not working on a farm’ but actually carried out one or more farm tasks.
It was unveiled that 43% have off-farm employment and 25% have an agricultural qualification.
Knowledge and learning needs
The women in the study stated that they want to expand their knowledge in cash-flow planning, business planning, soil fertility and fertiliser application, animal nutrition, personal development and computer skills.
Training courses, online courses, seminars/workshops and discussion groups; with a preference for after 6 p.m. on weekdays or on weekday mornings (9 a.m. – 12 p.m.) were identified as possible methods of delivering the required information.
The main barriers to engagement with advisory services were identified as the feeling that women would not be taken as seriously as male producers, that they are not welcome in many agricultural groups, a lack of self-confidence and a lack of knowledge.
How to improve engagement
Aisling revealed how gender mainstreaming advisory services should help to engage more farm women with advisory services to encourage knowledge transfer and to aid decision-making on farms.
It was recommended that advisory services need to make a more conscious effort to include farm women and could be done by naming family members in correspondence and publishing gender-balanced promotional material.
Aisling believes that farm women’s learning needs should be considered when designing advisory programmes.
The advisers suggested that if they were more aware of farm women’s needs and perceived barriers, they may be more proactive in encouraging farm women to engage and there is scope to provide unconscious bias training for them.
Women in the study suggested female-only groups as a means of improving engagement but the literature debates that these may re-enforce gender stereotypes.
Collaboration with Teagasc and other agricultural organisations to get their message across while providing information that farm women require was also recommended.
The study then identified the possibility that female discussion groups could be piloted by advisory services to evaluate whether or not they would be effective.
Women in Farming
The efforts of Wexford Women Who Farm, South-East Women in Farming, West Women in Farming, North-West Women in Farming and Meitheal na mBan have been acknowledged on a national stage.
Aisling is involved with South-East Women in Farming group from its infancy, which springs back to October 2016.
Meetings are hosted approximately every six weeks, to cover an array of different topics including agricultural media, agricultural education, farm health and safety, and building resilience.
Ms. Molloy also hopped on board with members of the Women in Farming groups across Ireland earlier this summer, to venture across the waters to the Royal Welsh Show, a visit to Kate and Jim Beaven’s farm from BBC’s ‘Lambing Live’ and a tour around the Botanic Gardens.
‘It was an inspiring trip and we met some great people along the way. The group is a great way of learning about various topics and meeting like-minded people in the area, especially when I’m so far from home.’ She said.
A Young Lady in Agriculture
When asked about her experience as a female in the male-denominated industry of Agriculture, Aisling has rather positive experiences to share.
‘You will always meet some difficult individuals but they will be there regardless of whether you are male or female. Some people would say that it’s difficult to work as a woman in a male-dominated industry but the thought would rarely cross my mind. I think it’s all in how you perceive a situation and if anyone has a problem with it, you can enjoy proving them wrong!’ Aisling said.
The art of giving advice
As someone who has sailed through years of education, with valuable degrees in the bag and recently secured employment, Aisling is an ideal candidate to share wise words of wisdom.
‘See everything as an opportunity! It might be the smallest thing that you are asked to do but it could teach you so much or even open doors in the future. Nothing can beat hard work – doing a few things that you don’t particularly love will motivate you to find something you are really passionate about and to go for it; it won’t feel like work at all then!’ Aisling revealed.
Currently satisfied in her current position, Aisling also has several plans stirring in the pipeline.
There is a possibly that she may branch further into Bovine Genetics at some stage, as her eyes are securely fixed on the beef industry.
Keen to travel the hop and jump of the Irish sea, the Offaly woman also has plans to file an application for the Nuffield Scholarship programme at some stage in the not-so-distant future.